Some books were harmed in the making of this post

posted in: Alison Uttley, Richard Scarry | 24

You know how films often end with the disclaimer “No animals were harmed in the making of this film“… well I’m afraid today ALA or CILIP won’t be granting me the same disclaimer for books in this post so look away now if you’re the sort of person who never marks a book, never folds a dog ear and would feel faint at the site of scissors ripping through a page…


Last Friday I reviewed Eleanor’s Secret, a film all about learning to read, a love of stories, and favourite storybook characters coming to life. It’s currently one of the kids’ favourite films, but it has also inspired lots of play and conversation – which characters do we wish could step out of their books to join us for a day, for a picnic, for a dance?

These conversations led to us watching all the animations from the post earlier this week and also in us making our own books with some favourite characters who could step out from the pages and join us in real life.

We decorated blank book boxes (ours came from online craft shop Baker Ross) but you could make your own book boxes if you had more time – here are tutorials from Wish Wish Wish (using a real book) and Design Sponge (making a blank from cardboard).

A Pretty Book is a great place for getting ideas for what beautiful books can look like!

Then the girls told me which characters they’d like to come alive from books they enjoy. M wanted Flower Fairies and the cast of the Alison Uttley books about Little Grey Rabbit to pop out of their books. J wanted the inhabitants of Richard Scarry’s Busytown to come to life. So next step was to visit a second hand bookshop and see if we could find an old copy of these books to magically bring to life.

“Magically bring to life” is perhaps slightly misleading as what we actually did is… cut the books up. We cut out the characters we liked, glued them on to cardboard, painted the back of the cardboard just to make things a little prettier, and then when all was dry we cut out our 3-D characters.

Little Grey Rabbit, the Geranium Fairy, the Cat Family and Mr Fixit were soon jumping out of the girls’ books and setting off on adventures of their own around our house and garden.

Music we enjoyed while bringing our characters to life included:

  • The Story Book Ball by Maria Muldaur
  • Open a Book by Ken Galipeau
  • Between the Covers of a Book by Frank Squillante
  • Your Favorite Book by Recess Monkey

  • For more images of harmed yet beautiful books take a look at these:

  • Turning books back into trees over at Dark Roasted Blend
  • The work of artist Su Blackwell, with a gallery in this post at The New Yorker (which reminds me a little of the Pottermore trailer)
  • Repurposed book art – a gallery on Etsy curated by Sweet Paul

  • So which camp are you in? Do your books remain pristine? Do your books get manhandled to death? Personally I like my books to show they’ve been read – I love finding little comments from previous readings, and dog ears remind me of earlier times of enjoyment. For me, signs of being handled and read show that the books have a life of their own. But what about you? How do you handle your books?

    24 Responses

    1. sandhya

      Curious that you should write this post today. In the book by Pradeep Sebastian that I posted about two days back, there is a chapter on marginalia- the jottings that a reader makes on the margins, endpapers, etc. of books. Let me quote from it- Sebastian has in turn quoted Helene Hanff from 84 Charing Cross Road-

      “Helene Hanff writes, ‘I love inscriptions on flyleaves and notes in margins, I like the comradely sense of turning pages someone else has turned, and reading passages someone long gone has called my attention to.’…feel no qualms about ruining books – they perish like all things else; while they last, keep the conversation going.”

      While I do not completely agree with this, I do keep handy a pencil, although all I may do is mark parantheses on parts I really appreciated and would like to come back to them easily, or make a small jooting or two. But I’ll admit to being a bit fussy about my books, and hate to dog-ear them, or (sorry!) cut them up!:)

      I have been known to cut up magazines, though, for just the kind of craft discussed here. We loved the fairies amidst the cherries.

    2. Zoe

      Thanks Jackie! We’ve had lots of fun making these, and created some lovely little keepsakes in the process. I want a whole shelf of them 🙂

    3. Zoe

      Hi Sandhya, I really do need to read the Pradeep Sebastian book! I love that quote he has. Definitely represents my position. With kids books I’m perhaps a little more protective simply because they get given so much tough love that they would have stuck pages with food etc if I didn’t explain to the girls that the books need to be respected.

    4. Zoe

      Hi Damyanti, That wedding present sounds wonderful! If you’d like to share which illustrations it was I’d love to know!

    5. Susan Stephenson, the Book Chook

      I suspect I have a split bookish personality! My adult books and older children’s books show signs of wear – little scraps with page numbers and exclamations, a pressed flower near a favourite poem, cracked spines from age and re-reading. But the newer children’s books I have yet to give away are pristine. Sacred objects?
      Susan Stephenson, the Book Chook recently posted..Looking Back to June Past

    6. JT

      I’m in the split camp too. I have some books that I’ll barely open and others I’ve dog eared and completely marked up. I’m not beyond reusing a book headed for the trash in order to give it a new life.

      As a newbie bookbinder, I also take books apart and put them back together for practice.

      Thanks again for the mention of my blog!!!
      JT recently posted..The Winged Lion and Venice

    7. Katherine

      I’m a ‘keep books nice’ person, my husband, not so much… I was like this before I was a librarian though. We collect children’s books (just nice ones we like, not first or special editions or anything) and if we have kids I’m going to have to face up to them getting tattered and dog-eared though. But that’s what they’re for!
      Katherine recently posted..Scented endorsement

    8. maggy, red ted art

      As always a pleasure to read your crafty posts! I was a little frightened at the prospect of some books being cut up… but I guess there are some that are in such poor condition that this is a great way to recycle them. And knowing what a book lover you are, you would have been very gentle. Love the way it opens up so much imaginative play!

      Thanks for linking to Kids Get Crafty!


    9. Zoe

      Wow, so many great comments! Thanks maggy, Anna, katherine and JT.

      Katherine, I’m very envious of you calling yourself a children’s book collector. I would like to call myself that, but I’m scared I’d then go crazy (crazier) buying books as admitting the… addiction? might feed the addiction!

      JT – wow, bookbinding. That’s something I’d love to try.

      • Zoe

        Thanks Emma! Let me know if your son’s nursery do something similar – I’d love to hear how it goes and what the kids get up to!

    10. Chelsea

      I’m all about cutting up and repurposing books!!! I make Page Book Wreaths that I sell at craft festivals and on my Etsy Shop (The Art Stork.etsy. com). I’ve taught altered art book lessons with high schoolers before and they turned out great. This is a wonderful way to adapt it to children of a younger age. Thanks for the tips!

      The Art Stork

    11. Tasha Goddard

      This is a lovely idea, but I actually had pains in my stomach reading it. Cutting up books? No! No! No! However, I am aware that every now and then we do have to throw out a children’s book, because it’s got pages stuck together, bits torn out and so on and so on, so next time that happens, I will instead put it in a ‘marking time’ book box and we will cut them up when we have enough.

      But… you cut up Flower Fairy books? Seriously. Pain. Actual pain.

    12. Ivania

      I gotta admit I cringed seeing this (I was in the publishing industry years ago). Perhaps an alternative to cutting books is making color copies of the characters and laminating it. Then I taped them onto popsicle sticks. My girls had fun making a scenery on foam board and reenacting the stories that way.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    CommentLuv badge

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.